Thursday, 28 October, 2021

New Government And Pandemic Challenges

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was sworn in as the new chief executive of the nation on May 14, following an unexpected twist and turn of political events. Though he failed to survive the vote of confidence in the parliament on May 10, the opposition parties could not muster enough number to stake claims to form a new government within the deadline. The President then appointed Oli the leader of the single largest party in the House of Representatives as the 43rd Prime Minister of the country as per Article 76 (3) of the Constitution. With his appointment, PM Oli created a record by becoming the only leader to be appointed for the third time after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015. He is also the only leader of the CPN-UML to become the premier three times.

Interestingly, after being appointed PM, Oli made no changes in the Council of Ministers. All the incumbent 25 ministers of his previous Cabinet have been kept intact. Perhaps, PM Oli, who has confronted a huge challenge in the form of a raging coronavirus pandemic, did not want to upset the ongoing ministerial-level works and undertaking during this crucial time. Any change in the portfolios or inclusion of the new faces in the Cabinet would have created disturbances or delayed the outcome of the works being undertaken by all ministries.

After getting a new lease, the government is however staring at a very pernicious second wave of the pandemic that has claimed hundreds of lives within a short span of time. Shortage of beds, oxygen and medical equipment at health facilities across the country has resulted in a higher rise in the death toll. The media is rife with reports that many hospitals have opted not to admit COVID-19 patients after running out of oxygen and medical supply. People are dying in want of oxygen as their relatives are seen in long queues in front of the oxygen-producing industries in the Kathmandu Valley. Also, patients and their relatives have been compelled to buy medicines and medical equipment paying exorbitant prices as profiteers have taken advantage of the testing time. All these give us quite a distressing picture of the current situation in the country.

Soon after he assumed office, PM Oli vowed to tackle the pandemic challenges. He directed all state machineries and the private sector to engage in controlling the pandemic. He even warned that non-cooperation and negligence in controlling the disease would meet dire consequences. Efforts are being undertaken to address the problems of shortage of beds and oxygen in hospitals and hospitals have been asked to perform responsibly. The Oli government appears to have a favourable present time after his ruling party, the UML, witnessed a relatively peaceful environment following the reconciliation among senior party leaders. The Oli government must make the most of the current favourable atmosphere to address the gaping problems. Besides mobilising state machinery, public and private sectors, he should seek to gain support from the opposition parties in his anti-pandemic campaign now. Because controlling the second wave of the pandemic would indeed be termed as a major success for this government.